In the spirit of a public broadcasting fund-raising drive, I’d like to offer a more constructive proposal growing out of the widespread criticism of the avalanche of cash donated by the world’s uber-wealthy towards the restoration of Notre Dame.
I propose that the Vatican commit to match every dollar given towards Notre Dame with a dollar given by the Vatican to France’s poorest people.
Billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault announced a gift of $112M. His
net worth a year ago was about $25.5B. This donation was therefore about 0.4% of his net worth — approximately the same as the minute-to-minute noise of the value of his portfolio on world markets.
Not to be outdone, fellow billionaire Bernard Arnault immediate pledged twice that amount. His 2018 net worth was about $92B. He therefore dug deep to find 0.2% of his portfolio — about the same as the second-to-second noise.
America’s wealthiest people are, of course, following suit.
All told, the world’s wealthiest families quickly pledged more than a BILLION dollars to restore and rebuild Notre Dame. Each of these families donated a few seconds worth of earnings from their respective portfolios — about the time it takes to flush a toilet after use.
I offer these examples to demonstrate just how extreme our wealth concentration has become. I, at least, find it helpful to remind myself that these “large” donations are a vanishingly small portion of the portfolio from which they are given. When these uber-wealthy donors complain that their taxes are “too high”, I think we should bear these comparisons in mind.
The minimum wage law being phased in here in Massachusetts because it is SO “expensive” for employers results in an annual wage of $30,000. The amount tossed towards the Notre Dame disaster would pay the FULL annual wages of about 33,000 Massachusetts workers at the full $15/hr rate.
I must ask on this Maundy Thursday how any of us who profess to be a Christian — and especially any Roman Catholic, because Notre Dame is owned by the Vatican (it does not host a local parish) — how we reconcile this ostentatious display of wealth with the commands of the Jesus of the Gospels.
It therefore leads me to offer this proposal.
I’d like to see the Vatican make a public commitment to match every dollar given to the restoration of Notre Dame with a dollar given by the Vatican to France’s most poor and hungry.